Kerstin Forsberg is determined in engaging coastal fishermen communities of Peru in protecting the giant manta ! To do so, she created the marine educator’s teacher network as well as participatory research or community-based manta ray ecotourism. Planeta Océano engages coastal communities in marine conservation through research, marine education and sustainable development initiatives. These initiatives include:
1. Participatory research and citizen science: Local volunteers (fishermen, children, youth, among others) actively investigate local ecosystems, fisheries, and marine species, thus supporting local management efforts. Projects have included assessing shark and ray fisheries, pioneering manta ray conservation in Peru, assessing Traditional Ecological Knowledge on critically endangered sawfish, and supporting Marine Protected Areas.
2. Marine education: Incorporating and institutionalizing marine education and Ocean Literacy. Projects have included setting up Peru’s “Marine Educators Teacher Network” with over 50 schools, leading incubators for youth-lead environmental initiatives, game-based education and their Connecting Schools program, which aims to bring together students across borders through online technology and community engagement.
3. Sustainable development: Fostering environmental entrepreneurship and market-based approaches that contribute to marine conservation and socio-economic development. For example, pioneering community-based manta ray ecotourism in Peru as an alternate livelihood for low-income fishermen and local artisans.
Ultimately, these multidisciplinary and participatory efforts serve as a platform to connect multiple sectors in marine conservation, thus bringing together government, academia, youth, children, local fishermen, and many others.
The ocean is our planet’s main life support system, it regulates our climate, provides over half of the oxygen we breathe, sustains livelihoods and food security and makes our planet habitable. We all depend on the ocean, even if we have never seen it. However, our ocean is continuously exposed to threats such as over-exploitation, pollution and climate change, threatening livelihoods and subsistence of coastal communities. Peru hosts the most productive marine system on the planet, yet there was a clear need to engage coastal communities in marine conservation, thus supporting sustainable development.
To date, Planeta Océano has reached over 500,000 people and engaged over 10 local communities. They’ve directly engaged over 400 citizen scientists to create new scientific information and positively influence resource management, educated over 35,000 people (children, youth, adults) in marine education and incubated over 20 community and youth-lead environmental projects, including fisheries monitoring, mangrove reforestation, among others. Their efforts have engaged communities in northern Peru to pioneer manta research and conservation. In collaboration with the Peruvian government, local communities and partners, Planeta Oceano was able to achieve legal protection for giant manta rays and critically endangered sawfish in Peru. They formed Northern Peru’s Marine Educators Network and set up manta tourism as a novel source of income in the country. Their research has generated new scientific evidence for the country (e.g. uncovering evidence of green turtle nesting together with local girls), information that contributed to management.
Planeta Oceano’s projects are mainly focused in coastal Peru, specifically northern Peru. Beneficiaries and partners include small-scale fishermen, women, youth and children, as well as researchers and government officials. Their efforts are also scaling-up internationally, through collaborative research across the Eastern Pacific region, as well as in the development of our Connecting Schools program, which aims to engage schools across borders in marine education and conservation.
Challenges have included economic sustainability leading to turn-over and continuous internal capacity building. More recently, restrictions in travel and fieldwork because of the pandemic have created obstacles for project operations. In every case, Planeta Oceano strives to turn challenges into opportunities, developing further collaborations and creative ideas. For example, they are designing virtual tourism expeditions as an alternative to in-person manta ray tourism. Economic challenges guide us to establish a wider portfolio of partnerships and services. And, our internal capacity-building efforts have proven to serve as a successful incubator for young conservation professionals.
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